By Leo Welder via Business.com
News about the environment and our effect on it isn’t always cheery, but a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy gives everyone a reason to smile. According to the report, costs for key clean energy technologies have dropped between 41 percent and 94 percent since 2008, which means it’s never been easier or more cost-effective for your business to go green.
Here are five ways your business can make its ecological footprint lighter, its employees healthier, and its future brighter.
1. Green Your Commute
Stop contributing to city traffic and auto emissions by allowing employees to work virtually either part- or full-time. Tools like Trello, Skype, Google Docs, and Dropbox make working remotely efficient and cost-effective. American workers spend around 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year. Save high-performing employees time and money by rewarding them with flex scheduling. This perk doesn't cost you anything, but can be as valuable as cash to an employee. It can also get cars off the road at the highest traffic/highest polluting times of the day. Encourage employees who must come in to the office to carpool, take public transit, bike, and walk, providing tangible incentives if possible. Make walking to work fun—and competitive—by holding a Fitbit challenge.
2. Green Your Energy Consumption
Optimizing the energy settings for computers and other devices can provide immediate relief to the environment and to your energy bill. Set computers, thermostats, and lighting to energy-saving settings and make sure to shut them down when you leave for the day. You might also consider investing in energy saving devices like smart thermostats. Nest is a well-known smart thermostat that can actually learn your office’s heating and cooling patterns and employ motion sensors to determine when to turn on energy saving settings. You can also invest in smart lighting devices that turn lights off when the office is empty. In fact, some such devices take advantage of Nest’s motion sensors and automatically turn off lights when employees leave. And finally, printers, scanners, and other peripherals can be unplugged when they are not in use.
3. Green Your Documents
Transition to paperless services like Google docs, online fax, and e-signing. Online fax services cost less than the price of a phone line and they don't require any paper. Many e-signing services offer free accounts up to a certain number of signatures per month and can also help you keep track of every document that you sign. Review documents onscreen rather than printing them out, and archive files in the cloud rather than in cabinets. When you must use paper, buy recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content and the minimum of chlorine bleaching, and print on both sides of the page.
4. Green Your Office
With the price of technologies like solar and wind power dropping and many cities providing substantial incentives to go green, there’s never been a better time to invest in green updates and remodels of your office space. But there are also smaller scale ways to give your office a greenover. For instance, replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents and LED desk lamps, which don’t cost much but save big on energy. Use biodegradable soaps and cleaners and recycled paper or cloth towels in the bathroom and kitchen. Finally, ask everyone to join the green team by bringing in a mug or glass from home and keep some extras handy for visitors.
5. Green Your Lunch
Bringing lunch to work in reusable containers is usually the greenest, cheapest, and healthiest way to eat at work. And don’t forget to bring in reusable plates, utensils, and napkins. If you do go out for lunch, try biking or walking instead of driving. It will be good for both you and the environment!
Being green has never been easier — or less expensive. And the benefits to your own and your employees’ sense of well-being may be priceless!